The New York Jets will be out for revenge when they take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. Here are a few thoughts on this late-season divisional matchup.
The New York Jets will face the Buffalo Bills in a revenge matchup of a season that had so much promise in the minutes leading up to Week 1 kickoff.
It’s a good thing that Jets fans have learned to be resilient through all of the ups and downs that are part of the package — part of what is necessary to be a die-hard fan.
To say this has been a season of turmoil and confusion would be an understatement. To say that there are a myriad of “what if’s” is to state it lightly.
Losing your young star quarterback to mononucleosis (one of the most random and rarely occurring football illnesses), having your starting left guard charge the team for improper treatment, losing your starting center to poor play.
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Then losing both your starting linebackers and one of your only veteran wide receivers, and losing both your backup quarterbacks all in the first month and a half of the season. I don’t care what any critic says.
While in the fetal position at the bottom of the basement of the AFC East at 1-7, the Jets were in desperate need of something, anything, to keep their locker room from completely imploding and fracturing at the seams.
Any culture that new head coach Adam Gase was trying to create was absurdly skewed and put on hold. Talk is cheap in this league. The losses piled up without Sam Darnold under center. Trevor Siemian broke his leg.
Luke Falk looked more lost than a child in a mosh pit.
The team needed to win.
There was talk during those lowly weeks, when Jets fans faith was under the truest of tests, that the team may even finish 1-15. There was talk of selling the team, midseason firings.
Anything bad that could happen, well it happened.
But the thing is, when you’re at the bottom of the bottom, the only way in which to go is up.
Nothing exemplified this more than during a cool October night when No. 14 emerged from the tunnels, a custom-built Kevlar chest protector around his body to protect his recently enlarged spleen.
It was against what 99.9 percent of people would consider a blowout, a mercy game; the Dallas Cowboys coming into town.
But then, something happened.
Something that swells hope in every single die-hard Jets fans chest; people that have had to endure mockery, shame, defeat, heartbreaking loss and a myriad of unfathomable injuries:
The importance, the potential, the skill, and downright leadership of second-year signal-caller Sam Darnold as he marched right down the field in his custom-built chest protector, spleen on the line, slinging bullets to his receivers, standing tall in the pocket,.
He looked and acted every single bit the leader and franchise savior that Jets fans have been yearning for since Broadway Joe Namath famously guaranteed a Super Bowl victory (and delivered) nearly 50 years ago.
Darnold, coming off of a serious illness and an absolutely decimated team, found a way to make the big plays when they mattered most.
Gregg Williams and his defense stepped up big as well, and pro bowl safety Jamal Adams made all the huge plays you would expect of the third year stud out of LSU. That game would mark a turning point for the Jets locker room, their coaches, and their season.
What ensued down the stretch was a series of impressive wins and a few bumpy losses expected of a team with barely any of its opening day starters on the field.
Credit must be given to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his coaches for taking a bunch of undrafted and practice squad players and turning them into consistent playmakers whose defense currently ranks No. 2 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
Despite a myriad of injuries and plain bad luck on both sides of the ball, the locker room remained intact. Instead of totally imploding, the Jets now find themselves at 6-9, having upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in a huge defensive performance a week prior.
To finish the season strong on a positive note should be the goal here against the playoff-bound Buffalo Bills (who announced they would not rest their starters for the last regular-season game).
One could always play the “what if” game as much as they want, but the bottom line is that this is professional sports.
Unfortunately, stuff happens. Guys go down. It’s part of the game, part of life. The real question is how do you respond to adversity and challenges — how do you rise up?
For the Jets this season, this has been the question week in and week out.
As we prepare for the final game in Buffalo, let us reflect on the positives and try and keep focused on the bigger picture. This season is and always has been about developing Sam Darnold, who’s thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions in the past three weeks.
This is the kind of progress you want to see from your young franchise signal-caller and one can only fantasize how much better he will be with the right pieces around him, pieces like a stout and dominant offensive line, a true No. 1 wideout, among several key positions.
The Jets will look to Joe Douglas this offseason to address these imperative questions.
The three-time Super Bowl-winning general manager surely has his hands full, but this is what he was hired for. This is what players, coaches, and executives have consistently praised Joe Douglas about — his ability to get it done.
Looking back down, its been seemingly roller-coaster after roller-coaster, but when you’re at the lowest point, the only way to go is up.
The Jets have beaten some quality teams this year while having to reach all the way to the bottom of their depth chart to do so — but this is what you want to see as a fan.
Progress. Resilience. Fight.
The core pieces on offense and defense are there.
Young players like defensive lineman Quinnen Williams will continue to grow and get better, as the game slows down more and more.
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Players like Jordan Jenkins, Blessuan Austin, Brandon Shell, Tarell Basham, Blake Cashman — all part of a growing team that will look much different come OTA’s. And to think a year ago, almost all of those names were unknown to Jet fans.
I think it’s fair to say that this season has been a learning curve in the most literal sense.
Players learning from their new coaches, trying to establish an identity and culture all across the board. The “next-man-up” mentality has been battle-tested time and time again (especially on defense), only to take the field ready to compete week in and week out against some very good teams.
This Sunday, the Jets will look to finish their season on the highest possible note, looking to set a final record of 7-9 into the books.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s a very far cry from Week 9, when this team was 1-7 and hope was merely an encouraging term to try and lift the spirits of a team and a fanbase tired of losing and starved of postseason play.
Besides playing merely for revenge, perhaps the Jets will also play to show the league just how far a team can come after hitting rock bottom, and how no matter what, you never, ever stop fighting.
Instead of quitting when the going gets tough, you find a way to liftoff and soar on to Buffalo.